Things in real life I would never believe in fiction

As a fiction writer, I have to follow rules of believability. My plot and characters’ motivations have to make sense. I can’t yank the reader out of the story by making him stop, pause, and think, “That would never happen in real life.”

The ironic thing about this rule is that generally it doesn’t even matter if the thing in question does happen in real life. For example when I wrote Just One Wish, I originally had the cast of a TV show working over Thanksgiving weekend. I’d heard from my Hollywood sources that if a cast is behind schedule, they do indeed work over weekends and holidays. But my beta readers questioned the schedule so I had to change it.

As a writer, the whole truth is stranger than fiction principle can be baffling. People are continuously more stupid then I give them credit for.  Here are a few real life things that make no sense to me.

1) People who willingly go on national television to air their dirty laundry and share the most intimately painful details of their lives.

If I didn’t know who my baby’s father was, I certainly wouldn’t want to advertise this fact. Ditto for my problems in bed, struggling marriage, or my children’s behavior that is so unruly I need Super Nanny to expose their flaws and my pitifully inadequate parenting techniques.

How does a person show up for PTA meetings after going on one of these shows?

2) People who record themselves committing crimes and then post the videos on the internet.

On one hand, I’ve got to applaud these idiots for helping law enforcement to incarcerate them. Carry on, stupid criminal, carry on!

3) Whoever invented and first invested in bottled water.

I am old enough that I remember the time when you had to physically pour water into your own bottle if you wanted bottled water. Really, it’s not all that hard. There is only one ingredient to this recipe. So when bottled water first hit the stores, I thought it would be a foolishly short lived idea. I mean, what was the original advertisement for this product? It’s just like the stuff you can get from your sink, only more expensive! Who would pay for that? 

As it turns out, a lot of people. This is why I will never go into business for  myself. I apparently don’t know a good product when I see one.  Although lately I have been toying with the idea of marketing bottled air. It would be a great way to recycle all those used water bottle containers.

4) People who break into cages so they can mingle with carnivorous animals.

If the thing is called a Killer Whale, it is probably a pretty good indication that you should not dive into the tank for a social visit. And despite the fact that baby polar bears look huggable, a two minute search on the internet will let you know that polar bears eat seals. You are about the same weight as a seal and apparently have a close enough resemblance to a gray mammal with flippers that the polar bear is not going to be all that picky about eating you.

And last but not least 5) Road construction projects that take four months. One of the roads near my home is the victim of such a construction project. It makes me wonder what the men in the orange vests are doing on the days they show up–panning for gold? Excavating lost cities?

Fictional characters would never get away with being so slow for no apparent reason–but alas, we live in real life.


  1. Heli
    March 25, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Bottled water is lifesaviour when you have forget to take your own bottle (from home) with you and are dying to thirst.

    So yeah, it’s great business idea 😉

  2. gaylene
    March 25, 2013 at 5:28 am

    So true on all of those things! And the road construction, especially. When I lived in Utah, it seemed like the freeway was ALWAYS under construction. and as soon as it appeared it was done, they started over again.

  3. Tiana Smith
    March 25, 2013 at 7:10 am

    All of these are things I don’t understand – especially airing your dirty laundry on national television. Seriously, I’d never be able to go out in public again!

  4. Akilah
    March 25, 2013 at 8:29 am

    A man in China is selling fresh air in a can. For real.

  5. Janette Rallison
    March 26, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Heli, yep the funny thing is, I’ve bought bottled water more than once.

    Gaylene, I’m glad it’s not just AZ. (Actually, I’m not–what does that say about state governments?)

    Tiana, my thoughts exactly.

    Akilah, wow, someone beat me to the punch.

  6. Janette Rallison
    March 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Heli, yep the funny thing is, I’ve bought bottled water more than once.

    Gaylene, I’m glad it’s not just AZ. (Actually, I’m not–what does that say about state governments?)

    Tiana, my thoughts exactly.

    Akilah, wow, someone beat me to the punch.

  7. Georgia
    March 26, 2013 at 8:55 am

    You’ve assembled a great list of unbelievably strange real things. I, too, must scratch my head in wonder at the terribly revealing things people do/say for reality TV. I’ve only ever seen the commercials for Wife Swap, but I’m pretty sure that should all be illegal.

    Road construction is truly another puzzler. The amount of time and the number of miles that must be sacrificed by travelers is a mystery to me. Why, when a crew is working on a fifty-foot section of shoulder, must they block off three lanes for a minimum of 13 miles?!?

    You have a fabulous way with words, Janette! Let me emphasize again how much I enjoyed Just One Wish! I would love to be one of your beta readers!

    PS Thank you for your kind remarks on my blog.

  8. Meggan
    March 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I have been wondering- How many big orange cones can a state own? Maybe they have to do projects because they have no where to store them. Seems that way in Utah, anyway. Thanks for making me laugh again,

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